Written by: Thierry Aebischer & Raffael Hickisch
With only 31 museum specimens and a handful of possible sightings over the last twenty years, the Pousargues’s or savanna mongoose (Dologale dybowskii) is one of the least known carnivores in the world. But now we can learn more about them.
During our field work between 2011 to 2015 in the south eastern part of Central African Republic, we have discovered a population of this forgotten dwarf mongoose in the Chinko Project Area, a conservation zone recently founded and now part of the African Parks network.
Before we started the first expedition almost nothing was known about the wildlife in the east of Central African Republic. Thanks to direct field observations as well as strategically placed camera traps installed around termite mounds, occupied by Pousargues’s mongoose, we now have a better understanding of this small carnivore and its social structures. Astonishingly, the Pousargues’s mongoose shares its jungle home with eight different species of mongoose.
Observations from the Chinko show that Pousargues’s mongoose lives in small groups ranging from three to 12 individuals which move between their favourite termite mounds on a regular basis. Breeding has been observed taking place in mid-May during the early rainy season. A small group of three adults have been observed caring for an infant, carrying it around in their mouths. A first genetic survey based on collected scat samples, shows the Pousargues’s mongoose being a close relative of the forest dwelling Kusimanse crossarchus.
Based on more than 1,500km of walked transects, over 14,500 camera traps, days spent in more than 400 different locations and countless hours of field observations, Pousargues’s Mongoose seem to occur in much lower densities than most other mongoose in the Chinko Project Area. Habitat preferences and their ecological recommendations are still largely unknown so further studies are still needed. The vegetation is relatively pristine in eastern CAR, South Sudan and northern DRC due to less human interference in these areas and as such it can be assumed that the habitat of Pousargues’s mongoose is still available in large scale.
Poaching and overgrazing pose a serious threat to animals like lions, elephants, wild dogs and possibly this little mongoose in the Central African Republic. Therefore, it is important to manage large scale reserves like the Chinko Project Area to secure a functional ecosystem and the long term survival of a diverse wildlife community including nondescript dwarfs like the Pousargues’s mongoose.